The Statue of Liberty, a hollow colossus composed of thinly pounded copper sheets over a steel framework, stands on an island at the entrance to New York Harbor. It was designed by sculptor Frederic Bartholdi in collaboration with engineer Gustave Eiffel, and was a gift from France on the centenary of American independence in 1876. Its design and construction were recognized at the time as one of the greatest technical achievements of the 19th century and hailed as a bridge between art and engineering. Atop its pedestal (designed by American architect Richard Morris Hunt), the Statue has welcomed millions of immigrants to the United States since it was dedicated in 1886.
The Statue is a masterpiece of colossal statuary, which found renewed expression in the 19th century, after the tradition of those of antiquity, but with intimations of Art Nouveau. Drawing on classical elements and iconography, it expressed modern aspirations. The interior iron framework is a formidable and intricate piece of construction, a harbinger of the future in engineering, architecture, and art, including the extensive use of concrete in the base, the flexible curtain-wall type of construction that supports the skin, and the use of electricity to light the torch.
Edouard Rene de Laboulaye collaborated with Bartholdi for the concept of the Statue to embody international friendship, peace, and progress, and specifically the historical alliance between France and the United States. Its financing by international subscription was also significant. Highly potent symbolic elements of the design include the United States Declaration of Independence, which the Statue holds in her left hand, as well as the broken shackles from which she steps.
This colossal statue is a masterpiece of the human spirit. The collaboration between the sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi and the engineer Gustave Eiffel resulted in the production of a technological wonder that brings together art and engineering in a new and powerful way.
The symbolic value of the Statue of Liberty lies in two basic factors. It was presented by France with the intention of affirming the historical alliance between the two nations. It was financed by international subscription in recognition of the establishment of the principles of freedom and democracy by the United States of America’s Declaration of Independence, which the Statue holds in her left hand.
The Statue also soon became and has endured as a symbol of the migration of people from many countries into the United States in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. She endures as a highly potent symbol – inspiring contemplation, debate, and protest – of ideals such as liberty, peace, human rights, abolition of slavery, democracy, and opportunity.